Creative Exercise #5

Concrete vs. Abstract

One of the more common criticism levied against understanding poetry is that most poems are simply too abstract to understand. This tends to mean that a piece is too personal, too subjective for a person get a coherent interpretation. Of course, building concrete images can also help organize the scene you are attempting to relate to the reader. For example, if you want to write a poem about two lovers building a concrete scene where these two lovers inhabit is key to understanding not only the two people but even the emotions of that moment.

For this exercise, take an abstract phrase/word and try to attach as many concrete images to it as humanly possible. Think about how images seem to meld into one another. This is something you have to allow yourself to do. Find words that relate (in some sense) to each other. Even if it doesn't make any sense. Here are some examples

Order  — Government building, suit, near stack of papers, a bird’s nest, an egg, a fresh pigeon’s wing, a beak, the song of a finch.

Rage  — Furrowed face, a father, a sister, broken glass, dent in door, the chipped paint of a wall, the rusty fire escape, the hollowed out building, an empty street.

Peace  — A forest, light rain, an empty bed, an unmade bed, a bed with someone in it, someone standing in a doorway.

Hunger  — Hands caked with dirt, the bent over person, bone, dust, the open manhole, the darkened room

Grace  — a flowing dress, neat handing writing, a hand-written letter, moving legs, a person just catching the train as the doors close.

Most of these images tended to link with one another as they go along. You could also use this as a means to develop a scene as a whole. For example, take the last word “Grace." Looking closely, a scene could definitely be made. A woman in a flowing dress receives a letter from someone important. She must see this person, for some reason. The letter has complied them to rush out the door and take whatever transportation they can to reach the person. They just catch the train before the door close and the train departs. Of course, this would only be a framework to further develop. What type of letter was it? Why did she rush out? Is this event joyous or tragic? Well, that would be up to you to develop.

Come up with five abstract words to make more concrete. It could help you develop a subject to write about or help you think of the images you want to describe in a poem you are already working on. Either way, images are very important in a poems development. Many may disagree with that sentiment, but images are the way we come to experience the world. The images developed through all are senses are so important. Abstractions (such as the abstractions of concepts) can only take a reader so far. However, there is always an exception to the rule. Metaphor is where the concrete and the abstract marry one another.

Be sure to also comment on a classmate's post for cull credit.

25 thoughts on “Creative Exercise #5

  1. Lilia Lundquist

    Loyalty — mothers, siblings, change of seasons, an old dog, Toyotas, polished gold

    Envy — folded arms, overcast, unrelenting gaze, thick smog, forced smiles

    Hope — hopping out of bed, smiles towards strangers, blue skies, classic rock, Sunday service

    Elegance — sundresses, untouched waters, polished wood, expensive weddings, countryside brunch

    Generosity — extended hands, warm smiles, a shared bed, dinner parties, “need a ride?”, walking on air

    1. Kelsey

      I love your concrete scenes for hope! It brings to mind the perfect summer day when you are on summer break as a kid and the radio is playing and the windows are open in the whole house. Your whole life is ahead of you and there’s so much hope! 🙂

  2. Tometria Jackson

    Peace — calm waters, a sleeping baby, a quiet meadow, birdsong, the sound of rain on a roof, a quiet room, the sound of a ticking clock, the library, a solitary fisherman on a lake, kittens curled up in a basket, a dove, a small cabin on a mountaintop, classical music, the sound of snowflakes falling, a cup of coffee, a Sunday afternoon nap, bread baking in the oven, the color green

    Courage — a person defending a stranger, a firefighter, salmon swimming against the current, the first flower of spring, a baby’s first steps, standing alone against the crowd, a police officer upholding the law, asking someone out on a date, speaking out against injustice, asking for a raise, running for political office, a small animal defending its young, asking for a favor

    Love — smiles from across the room, two hands with fingers intertwined, a warm rosy glow, the sound of a heartbeat, a mother’s hands cradling her newborn, a beautiful sunset, a heart-shaped rock, returning home after a long absence, shared inside jokes, two kids playing together, a dog greeting its owner, wedding vows, the laughter of children

    Strength — a Redwood tree, a large rock, a wedding band, a lion, an avalanche, a woman, the Parthenon, a voice in command, a fighter jet, a family, the U.S. military, a bridge, a cast iron skillet, a diamond, a brick wall, Olympic athletes, Superman, a battleship, a large dog pulling on a leash, a tightrope wire, a waterfall, a bodybuilder

    Fear — a dark room, shivers down the spine, eyes widened, a graveyard, reaching for a hand that isn’t there, losing a child in a crowd, standing alone, a spider on the wall, driving on the ice, the sound of footsteps approaching in the dark, walking in the woods and everything suddenly goes quiet, a stranger in your home, being called into the boss’s office, suspenseful music, a scary movie, a rollercoaster, bouncing a check, making a speech, getting pulled over by the police, losing your phone

    1. Lilia Lundquist

      I enjoyed your words for fear, I found many of them relatable and I was able to replicate the level of fear from experience for some of them.

    2. nmfleming

      When I think of courage I would never associate “salmon swimming against the current,” once I thought about it more salmon do have to have courage. Very creative.

    3. Delaney E Reece

      I am so glad I made my own list before looking over yours! I decided to do peace too and I love the list you made and I see peace in all of those things as well. It’s nice to see too that separately we still had some of the same ideas about what peace is.

  3. nmfleming

    Hug- upset, tears stream down a face, pieces on the floor, warm, safe, comforting
    Kind- “Can I play?”, your turn, “You can go first”, laughing, listening
    Music- bodies moving, “Can I pick the song?”, this way, no that way, stop, “I won!”
    Pain- red, band- aide, ice packs, tears
    Car- hot, cold, moving around to get comfortable, bored, trees passing by, hours

  4. Benjamin Hayward

    Subjective- opinion, poetry, art, god, religion, beauty
    Toothpick- pain, stuck food, halitosis, white teeth, tooth fairy
    Hotdog- left over, BBQ, family, pig snout, cow tounge
    Pork Chop- Bull Dog, lazy, fat, farts, drools, snuggle buddy
    Marine- Honor, Integrity, love a man in uniform, fighter, womanizer

  5. Jess Young

    Beauty – natural, grace, no make up, in your pajamas, being kind, taking a moment to check on someone else, a mother and child, the human body, trees, nature, rivers and waterfalls, mountains cascading to the sky, home.

    Stress – heart racing, chest tightening, hands numb, sweat, a thousand thoughts, worst case scenario, I need a drink, how can this possibly be okay? , throat closing, anxiety, shortness of breath, I can’t breathe, I can’t think, I need help.

    Sadness – shattering, devastation, heart-break, a piece of me missing, tears, waterfalls on my face, aching, separation, love

    Courage – Integrity, speaking out against the crowd, conflict, standing up to your friends, telling someone you love they are wrong, being afraid and doing it anyway, bravery in the face of conflict, taking the plunge, jumping off the cliff, sacrifice, doing what is right, loving someone in spite of themselves, forgiveness, asking for help.

    Love – heart, chest, sacrifice, child, husband, feeling, friendship, concrete, unending, pain, working it out, practice.

    1. Tometria Jackson

      It’s amazing how words can create feelings and emotions. Your words for stress were so relatable, and I felt my body acting in response to what I was reading. That’s pretty powerful!

  6. Kelsey

    Anger- Red, itchy skin, dark night, quiet house, yelling, driving alone
    Love- the smell of coffee in the morning, laughing, walking with a stroller, a newborn baby holding your finger, children laughing on a Saturday morning
    Strength- Furrowed brow, eyes straight ahead, calling cadence, a woman on the stand looking her attacker in the eye, running, the yells of labor, a daddy doll
    Loyalty- holding hands, laughing late at night, eye contact across the room, wedding bands, a sister, a welcome home ceremony, a dog curled against your legs through the night
    Compassion- a hand on a shoulder, eye contact with watery eyes, hugging a small child, a homeless man with a dog on the side of the road, cold winter days

  7. Angela Rodriguez

    Confidence- Physical posture, Maintain eye contact, Acceptance of your mind and body, Demonstrating confidence, Make-up, Fresh Hair, New Clothes, Speaking my Mind, Self-Acceptance, competence, my father, popularity, leaders, Donald Trump, Politics, Policy, Rules, Order

    Generosity- Donating to charity, giving to others, offering my time, gifts, being merciful, building community, making friends, hosting gatherings, supporting others in a time of need, Churches, homeless shelters, red cross, armed forces, teachers, parents, children, friendships

    Loyalty- staying to true to myself and others, staying in touch with friends and family, being truthful, being forgiving, honesty, being there for each other, open communication, spending quality time together, shared experience, dogs, territorial, long walks, dates, red roses, night drives, small talk, whispers, forehead kisses

    Chaos- family, close nit, gatherings, my bedroom, dirty laundry, kids, laughter, play, time bound, tornado, out of control, anger, frustration, annoyance, lack of order, dirty dishes, piles of paperwork, working, money, bills

    Warmth- wood stove, fire, heat, the sun, sunbathing, a fresh tan, campfire, heartwarming, loving, generous, kindness, happiness, giving, developing, growing, grateful spirit, competence, thankful, gratitude, a ‘Thank You’ card, watching chick flicks while eating ice cream, fuzzy blankets, warm socks,

    1. Shana Waring

      I liked to see the physical and emotional depictions of warmth. Sunbathing and a campfire cause me to feel similar to the way I feel from a really great day or a big completion of something I have worked very hard for. A fuzzy blanket is probably the best relation I could make as I sit here typing with a fuzzy blanket laid on my legs with the computer sitting on top. I also found your variety of confidence to really open my mind to the bigger picture of how many different roles this word could take in relation to this assignment in particular.

  8. Delaney E Reece

    Bright – the sun off the water, doctors offices, the front row of a classroom, blonde hair, the crack under a door, the flash of a camera

    Success – hitting submit, checking off a list, crossing the finish line of a race, standing on the podium, giving a speech, entering a stage, applause

    Alone – opening your eyes underwater, a dark empty house, a winding road, cold showers, phone calls to busy lines

    Culture – bright red, loud music, and laughter, a sense of belonging, celebrations, exotic animals, strangers kindness

    Peace- an old friend’s long hug, the wind blowing over a clover field, the canopy made by tree cover, clean sheets after a long day, being welcomed and accepted by strangers

    1. Angela Rodriguez

      I like how specific your concrete phrases are! I specifically like the phrases you have written for success. Success can be made in so many ways and I really like “hitting submit” it goes with completing this weeks assignments!

  9. Shana Waring

    Determination- money, freedom, meeting the needs of the community, striving for better, making necessary compromises for the betterment of family, friends, and future generations

    Focus- end goals, books, website, the reflection of a computer screen in the light of eyes

    Anxiety- sweat, sleeplessness, self-doubt, need for approval, hard beats of your heart in your chest with shallow breaths leaving your tummy fluttering with butterflies

    Ability- Continual success, completion, walking across the graduation stage

    Peace- happiness, comfy chair, children’s laughter, children’s developmental growth, tranquility, a hammock under the sunny blue sky

    1. Kait

      Wow, I really like the abstract words you chose and I think the concrete images you chose have more to do with modern education which why I think you’re going to have very captivating poems that everyone can relate to.

  10. Kait

    Loyalty: Ants carrying crumbs in a long line, a full chore schedule, a cheering crowd full of family members, employee of the month two months in a row, a mother bird carrying a worm back to the nest, a full dance group.

    Grace: A ballerina’s laced feet, deer prancing through a field, rain dropping through a forest to the ground, the finishing touch of icing on a cake, the sweep of an artists pencil on paper, wind blowing gently through a field of dandelions, a skaters figure eight.

    Hardship: Bleeding fingers on a washboard, torn muddy work boots, pictures taped to the wall, wood remanents after cutting a tree down, an abandoned cabin, boarded windows,.

    Peace: A handshake, fresh spring water flowing from a mountain, a fresh blanket of snow slowly falling, a full coloring book, the smell of pancakes with the radio playing, a sleeping dog on a porch, the sun shining through a greenhouse.

    Fury: The slamming of a door, a broken dish, the un-relentling waves of a storm, clenched fists, a revealing vein on a forehead, a full complaint box, an aggressive charge on a basketball court.

    1. Courtney Kisner

      Very creative concrete images! The pictures taped to the wall is a great image, as was the smell of pancakes with the radio playing. These were a couple of the descriptions that were something I wouldn’t normally think of but clicked right away and brought a detailed image to mind.

  11. Courtney Kisner

    Love: Walking into your front door, warm spaces, a rug in front of a fireplace, an unmade bed, fingers running through your hair, sugar baking in the oven, the moment your mouth recovers from something spicy.

    Euphoria: Light headedness, runner’s high, coming in from the sweltering heat into a cool room, your body sinking into the sheets at night,

    Anger: A wine glass shattering, a slam of a door, crooked pictures on the walls, clammy hands, hot face, condensation on a paper cup, a traffic jam,

    Simplicity: The white spaces in between words on a page, a jewelry-less body, a conversation cut short, a sunrise on a Sunday, your grandparents’ house, the quiet spaces you can practically feel, that hang in the air and on your body, the guest bedroom.

    Trust: A clock, the route home from work, a concrete staircase, a bookshelf made of oak, the smell of newspaper, the sound of hot coffee being sipped, the way your eyes tingle in the morning when you aren’t all the way awake.

  12. Meghan Geary

    Joy- sunshine warming cold cheeks, a light breeze rustling bright green leaves, wrinkles on the corners of eyes, sparkling ripples on a lake, a dog’s tail wagging, sunrise

    Serenity- alpenglow on a scene of mountains, birds lightly chirping in the morning, water lapping the shore, a good book, shade under a large tree, walking through the forest

    Fear- storm clouds, rabbits ears perked at attention, heart racing, cheeks flushed red, wide eyes, a deer in the headlights, mouth hanging open wide, sharp breaths, pounding, stomping, adrenaline rushing through your veins, a coiled snake ready to strike

    Intrigue- an animal sniffing, a furrowed brow, a caterpillar crawling along a leaf, a feather floating in the wind, a window peeking into an unknown space, a do not disturb sign

    Passion- birds swooping, lightning striking, dancing flames, the crest of a wave, rolling thunder, tree branches intertwined, a hurricane, a waterfall, salmon jumping up river, dancing, the sound of a heartbeat, the bloom of a flower

    1. Brenden Couch

      I really like the imagery given in your list. I would never have came up with the same and I think that is the point of the exercise

  13. Brenden Couch

    Come up with five abstract words to make more concrete. It could help you develop a subject to write about or help you think of the images you want to describe in a poem you are already working on.

    Ethereal-a butterfly landing on a flower petal,the touch of baby reaching for his mum, a wisp of smoke threading through the air, a snowflake landing softly atop a car roof.

    Golden- Sunlight filtering through a canopy of tree cover on a crisp autumn morning, a glow of a lamp alone lit through a night darkened hall, the sun rising over a snow capped vista, the sight of expired leaves on trees or grass upon the ground.

    Love- The feeling of looking at ones own children, a feeling of loyalty and steadfastness to act as a bulwark against the troubles of the world, an action of permanent dedication.

    Decay- A result of exposure to rays of time, the result of a measure of experience, where ones own body prepares for its final descent, a vision of worms and creepily crawling critters.

    Garden- A lush life filled area, a place of peace and calm serenity, beauty for all senses, a rainbow of colours, an abundance of nostil pleasing aromas

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